WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – His presidency over, Donald Trump bid farewell to Washington on Wednesday but also hinted at a comeback despite a legacy of chaos, tumult and bitter division in the country he led for four years.
“Goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form,” Trump told supporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he received a 21-gun salute as part of a military send-off before boarding Air Force One for his last time as president.
Trump was already in Florida, at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, by the time Joe Biden was sworn in just before noon as the 46th president of the United States.
Trump was the first president in modern history to boycott his successor's inauguration. He also refused to participate in many other symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power as he continued to stew about his election loss – though he did leave behind a note for Biden. Biden declined to say what Trump had written, but described it as a “very generous letter.”
Trump has maintained the election Biden won decisively was stolen from him, even though Republican officials in several critical states, members of his own administration and a wide swath of judges, including those appointed by Trump, have rejected those arguments.
After painting a dire picture of “American carnage” on his own Inauguration Day in 2017, Trump departed on Wednesday as the only president ever to be impeached twice, with millions more out of work than when he was sworn in and 400,000 dead from the coronavirus. Under his watch, Republicans lost the presidency and both chambers of Congress.
He will be forever remembered for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol two weeks before Biden's swearing-in that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer, sent lawmakers scrambling for safety and horrified the nation.
Trump orchestrated an elaborate farewell that included a red carpet and color guard, as well as his usual campaign soundtrack. Members his family were visibly emotional during the program at the base.
Speaking without notes, Trump told several hundred supporters that it had been his “great honor and privilege” to serve as president.
He acknowledged that his was not a “regular administration.” Without mentioning Biden by name, Trump wished the new administration great luck and success, which he said would be made easier because he had laid “a foundation.”